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More About Meta Tags
Jun 30, 2004

Sometimes you have to ignore advice. And one case for this is all the advice all  over the Internet about the importance of meta keywords. That's old news. The meta keywords are simply not the powerhouses they once were, and are not worth investing SEO (search engine optimization) efforts on. To find out more about what happened to King Keyword and which meta tags you should be more concerned about, keeping reading . . .

Why <meta> Tags With Keywords Fell Out of Favor

For years, unscrupulous webmasters planted false keywords in <meta> tags in an attempt to trick search engines, as well as using <meta> tags to lead users to spam sites. In response, the search engines ceased to use the <meta> keywords.

AltaVista was one of the last of the major search engines to use keyword tags, and they stopped in the summer of 2002. It was also in 2002 that Journal of Internet Cataloging in included an article in which Monika Henziger, the Google Director of Research was quoted as saying, "Currently, we don't trust metadata."  And at the Google Webstats section of the code site, an article from December, 2005 is less than enthusiastic about the keywords <meta> tag, saying that currently it's "mostly useless." So, yes: keyword tags are history (http://code.google.com/webstats/2005-12/metadata.html).

Looking at Google Page Source at, for example, Google.com, shows that they practice what they preach. The only <meta> tag in the header is::

<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">

No keywords tag.

Today's Key <meta> Tags

Now that we've put <meta> keywords in their place, let's turn our attention to the tags that are currently important.

 The Description

Most of the major search engines support the description property within the name attribute. What's more, it's possible to arrange for the material you place in this tag to be reported in search results in combination with other material that they may choose to include, such as:

some of the description you have supplied to the DMOZ/ODP (Open Directory Project), a process that you can read about in more detail in the article "Getting Listed in ODP/DMOZ"

some of the first sentence of text in the body of the webpage
 
a section of text that includes the initial use of the search term in the page's body text or navigation, possibly with the search term in a highlight color to make it stand out

Reports indicate that by including a description tag, you can get search engines to include between 100 and 200 words of the description in search results.

This is the format to use to make a description tag:

<meta name="description" content="your description">

Just as it's best if each page of your site has a unique title tag, so it's similarly a good thing to give each page a unique and appropriate description, reserving a general description solely for your home page. Besides giving the searcher a better idea about the content of your site, apparently unique page descriptions is one of the factors that encourages the Google search engine to include your description text, in preference to other material.

Just as with title tags, you can write in short, descriptive phrases, rather than sentences, if that works better for the material you need to convey. A product description, for example, might list the product type, the key features, and the price for each item, resulting in a tag something like this:

<meta name="description" content="HiEnerGee Bars; Features: Boost your energy for exercise; Four delicious flavors; Recommended by water-skiing enthusiasts; Price: $19.95 for a box of 12">

If you wish, you can also direct search engines to omit DMOZ/ODP material and substitute your description tag material. To do this, you create the following tag:

<meta name= "robots" content="noodp">

 The Robots Tag

And with that robots tag, we segue into the robot section. There are several important uses of robot tags:

  Prevent robots from indexing your page (if it is for interoffice communication only or part of a personal site) like this:

<meta name= "robots" content="noindex">

Prevent robots from following page links like this:

<meta name= "robots" content="nofollow">

Combine the "noindex" and "nofollow" tags like this:

<meta name= "robots" content="noindex, nofollow">

 The Content-Type Tag

Google's webstats says that this is the most often used <meta> tag value, likely due to the fact that it is the standard way to identify the type of material on the page and the character this article has all rights reserved and is copyright by 100 Best set to the browser.  Here are some examples:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">

<meta http-equiv="content-type" content=""text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/pdf">

Related Web Tools:
Create Good Title Tags

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